I am a freshman and arrived on campus for the first time about a week ago, and as most of you probably know, everyone at Barnard and Columbia has had to quarantine for a certain amount of time upon arrival. Yes, I have quarantined before, but not like this. In the past, I never quarantined alone (I always had my family with me), and I would still go outside for runs and a breath of fresh air. Quarantining on campus was completely different. First of all, nobody could go outside at all, which was a huge challenge for me. Second of all, you’re aware that there are people all around you, and you can’t go and introduce yourself, which was another huge challenge. Lastly, you’re basically stuck in just your bedroom, the same place you study and sleep, which is always difficult for me. Since this experience was so different for me, I noticed a lot of psychological effects that occurred due to complete loneliness, and they are incredible.
There’s something about not going outside for five days straight that really confuses the body, especially when there’s a window in the room and you can see how nice the day is, but you can’t feel it; it’s like the outdoors are teasing you and it’s horrible. Because of this, I found myself staring out the window constantly, pressing my hands against the glass, and managing to crack the window open about four inches out of pure anger. Mentally, I felt really congested. It was as if my mind were permanently clouded and I could only catch glimpses of the exit. This, in turn, led to intense anxiety. But, this anxiety acted differently than it normally does; it almost functioned as a type of claustrophobia. I would try to move from one corner of a room to another, but it was really hard to feel like I had space, both physically and mentally.
The next part that really got to me was just being alone. Not seeing any real person for five days made me feel really odd. The first phase of loneliness, for me, was hysteria. Whenever I FaceTimed my family or friends, I found myself laughing for no reason and honestly I felt like I belonged in a psychiatric ward; even the people I FaceTimed were very concerned as to why I found everything so funny. The loneliness also made it hard for me to focus on my studies. During the quarantine, I still had classes and homework to do, but being in isolation made it feel like they weren’t real priorities. So instead, I spent my time fiddling with random items in my dorm. For example, midway through the quarantine I managed to make four different depictions using a few of my necklaces, and let me tell you, they were absolute masterpieces.
Overall, to be able to quarantine in complete isolation with no problems is a skill. I don’t know how anyone was able to live their life normally without being outside or seeing people for five whole days straight. Nonetheless, it was worth it, because now I’m meeting amazing people and really getting to know the infamous city of New York.